What Allah wants her to be
By KATHLEEN D. BAILEY
Special to the Union Leader
Sunday, Apr. 29, 2007
Exeter – They wore long skirts and head scarves, business suits, jeans and sweaters. One tee nage girl wore a head scarf and jeans. They came from a rich mix of countries, including America, and spanned a variety of professions. Their message was clear: a Muslim woman can be anything Allah wants her to be.
Phillips Exeter Academy sponsored a forum on The Muslim Woman Thursday night. Women from the Academy community and beyond gathered in Phillips Chapel to talk about who they were, and what the world thought they were.
Zainab Qari, Muslim student adviser at the school, organized the forum. She works with the nine Muslim students currently enrolled at the academy. “We’re recruiting for more,” she said with a smile.
“The media can be misleading,” Qari said in her introduction. “We’re here to clarify some of the misconceptions, the differences between culture and religion.”
One stereotype: Muslim women aren’t allowed an education. Two of the panelists have graduate degrees. Ronda Kasimek, born in Kuwait, is a research assistant at Harvard Medical School. She’s a scientist by vocation and an artist by avocation, working in a 500-year-old mosaic style. Her detailed panels show flowers and leaves, bits of Arabic poetry, or quotations from the Koran, but no humans. “It’s forbidden to draw figures of humans, so we put our creativity into the plants and leaves,” she said.
Kasimek, who wears traditional dress, believes that Allah wants her to use all her talents. “The thing that pushes me is a quote by Mohammed, ‘The most beloved people to God are the most beneficial to others.’ My dream is to one day be part of a chain that leads to a cure for cancer.” [more]